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Gaming-Gambling Convergence: Trends, Emerging Risks, and Legislative Responses

Abstract

A convergence of gaming and gambling products, services, and platforms is presently drawing considerable policy debate. This convergence may be giving rise to a critical area of consumer vulnerability given the addictive potential of gaming and gambling. While some convergence aspects are gaining research attention, the broader contexts of the phenomenon have not been adequately examined. In light of this, the present study aimed to inform four key enquiry areas pertaining to gaming-gambling convergence—contexts and drivers, definitions and framings, risk and harm, and legislative response. Using a narrative review method, 108 articles from the academic and grey literature were examined and thematically summarised to provide an overview of the convergence phenomenon. Findings indicate convergence in multiple overlapping contexts (gaming elements in gambling, games incorporating gambling elements, gambling on games, free simulated online gambling, and social media games and gambling) driven by technological advances and commercial interests. Findings related to definitions and framing include the industry’s strategic use of the term gaming to reduce negative connotations associated with gambling, and community perceptions of gaming as legitimate and harmless entertainment. Potential risks include transitions from games (without money) to real-money gambling, and problem co-existence. Legislative responses are beginning to emerge with the greatest focus being on loot boxes in games. However, the limited evidence of risk and harm has led to hesitancies in legislative actions to regulate gaming-gambling hybrids in some jurisdictions. Considering that convergence is supported by rapid advances in technology and is taking place largely on the Internet (accessible 24 h), harms for consumers could manifest quickly and spread broadly across societies before their existence and severity are established. Based on the Precautionary Principle, the present evidence base call for harm prevention policies and regulations in addition to changes in the definition of money (including digital currency and microtransaction) in gaming and gambling laws.

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Acknowledgements

Work conducted for this review was funded by the World Health Organization (2019/891433-0; Purchase Order 202205697; Unit ref MSB) and partially carried out at the Auckland University of Technology. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. We also thank Jiang Long, Natacha Carragher, and Daniel King for feedback on an earlier draft of this review.

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Correspondence to Komathi Kolandai-Matchett.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 1 List of researched references

Appendix 2

Table 2 Terminologies related to gaming-gambling convergence

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Kolandai-Matchett, K., Wenden Abbott, M. Gaming-Gambling Convergence: Trends, Emerging Risks, and Legislative Responses. Int J Ment Health Addiction 20, 2024–2056 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-021-00498-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-021-00498-y

Keywords

  • Gaming-gambling convergence
  • Gaming-gambling hybrid
  • Games to gambling transition
  • Gaming and gambling problem co-existence
  • Gaming regulations
  • Gambling legislation
  • Harm prevention policies